Autzen Stadium became Vernon Adams Jr.’s playground on Saturday as No. 23 Oregon racked up 578 offensive yards and knocked off No. 24 USC 48-28 on Saturday afternoon.
Adams was masterful throughout the contest and completed 20-of-25 passes for 407 yards, 6 touchdowns and an interception. He connected with eight different receivers on the day and each of his touchdown passes, which tied a school record, went to a different player.
“Vernon had a whale of a game,” offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “Our offensive line deserves a ton of credit for giving him time and we’ve got a lot of receivers that can make a play and a bunch of them did tonight.”
After an early pick in the end zone on the first drive of the game, Adams caught fire and found open Ducks receivers all over the field in the first half. Redshirt junior Bralon Addison, who led the team with 105 yards receiving on five catches, was the recipient of the first touchdown pass, a 48-yard dart to put the Ducks (8-3, 6-2) up 7-0.
After a USC response, tight end Evan Baylis found himself wide open for a 52-yard touchdown on the first play of the next drive. In the second quarter, Adams hooked up with Darren Carrington for a 37-yard touchdown and followed that up with a 30-yard strike to a wide open Kani Benoit on the next drive.
With just 18 seconds left in the first half, sophomore running back Royce Freeman’s 32-yard run led to Adams finding Addison for a 28-yard gain that resulted in a field goal to give the Ducks a 31-14 lead at the break. Simply put, USC (7-4, 5-3) failed to adjust early and Oregon took advantage.
“We knew we could take some shots when they were in quarters,” Frost said. “And they were jumping back and forth between quarters and man free and blitzing us a little bit. So we had try to time it up to get to the middle of the field when they were in their quarters coverage and we guessed right a couple times.”
Adams continued to abuse the USC secondary by finding Dwayne Stanford for a 21-yard touchdown before the Trojans tightened up and made a third quarter run that saw them narrow Oregon’s lead to 38-28.
But a timely strip by cornerback Arrion Springs and recovery by defensive end DeForest Buckner set Adams up to shut the door on the next play with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Charles Nelson. It didn’t seem to matter who the target was on Saturday. If they were open, Adams was finding them.
“For this team this year I think we’re doing a great job with what we have,” Stanford said. “We’re doing a great job spreading the ball around like you guys said. We had six guys catch a TD pass today and Royce probably had 100 yards rushing again. So it’s like we have so many weapons and so many guys you could just get us the ball and just let us make plays.”
In the end, Adams turned in one of the more electric offensive performances in Oregon history. Almost lost in the shuffle was Freeman’s 147 yards rushing on 20 carries, but Saturday was about Adams and the performance he turned in in front of a sellout crowd that included former Oregon quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. He managed to impress just about everybody, including Frost.
“I wish I could coach him for four years,” Frost said. “He’s a special player and a special kid.”
A short week awaits Oregon with the Civil War looming next Friday at Autzen. Playing against a Beavers team that is in rebuild mode under new head coach Gary Andersen, the Ducks should be heavy favorites after several explosive performances over the past month. And if Cal can knock off Stanford on Saturday night, it could result in the Ducks stealing the Pac-12 North Division crown as well.